Monday, June 23, 2008

"Banquet by Blog"

Life in the Trenches!

Celebrating the JOY of a good defensive play in Palermo.


As we continue our playoff vigil, I decided to take some time to reflect on the players on the defensive side of the ball for the 2008 Catania Elephants.

In America, we would have an end of the season banquet to give out awards and talk a little bit about each player and their contributions to the team. I don’t think we will have time for that here in Catania so I decided to have a first ever “Banquet by Blog” to talk about our defensive players. 


Andrea Mannino #2, maybe our most improved player during the course of the season. His kickoffs and his extra points became money for us down the stretch. 


Salvo Persano #82, with our offensive prowess he didn’t get very many opportunities to punt but did a solid job placing the ball away from the other team’s return men.


DE Brandon "Big Bianco" Bennett leading the charge!

Brandon Bennett #63, our only two-way, full time starter, he played both DE and NT. He rarely came off the field in our 10 games and did a fine job modeling the toughness that linemen MUST possess. He had 29 tackles including 4 for losses equaling -10 yards and 1 QB Sack for -35 yards. Brandon definitely wins our “Ironman Award”.

Fabio Scuto #90, DE, a young player with a lot of promise, he started the first 9 games of the season but broke his ankle in game 9 at Bologna. Fabio had 23 tackles, 4 QB Sacks for -33 yards, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble in the end zone for a TD.

Marco Raino #73, NG, one of the wily, old veterans, Marco played with a ton of heart and spirit. He has been great, unselfish leader for our younger players. Marco was in on 20 tackles and contributed one QB Sack and one Fumble Recovery.

Pino Anello, #24, finished the season at DE but was our starting MLB in game 1 at Milan. His season was shortened by injuries forcing him to miss out of 5 games completely and causing him to miss the second half of 3 other game. Pino, also one of our seasoned veterans, contributed 15 tackles.

Peppe Strano, #43, in reality our starting TE/H Back, he was pressed into service in a couple of games at DE  due to our injury issues. He had 13 tackles on the season and was very good on the kickoff team. He missed 1 game due to injuries.

Mathieu Cassaghi, #75, our starting OT, he did play a few token snaps at DE throughout the season adding 6 tackles including a -7 yards QB Sack.

Marco Tilotta, #51, a rookie who played both DE and NT, he missed 2 games and had 4 tackles in very limited playing time.

Mateo Amata, #70, was our biggest defensive lineman and a NT who suffered a season ending knee injury and missed 6 games but he did make 1 tackle.


LB Gianmarco Pecoraro, on the left, tracks down a ball carrier.

Gianmarco Pecoraro, #3, an OLB, he played in all 10 games, showing great hustle and heart. He was in on 60 tackles, forced 2 fumbles, had 1 interception that he returned 8 yards and 1 QB Sack for -15 yards. If possible I would like to see if Sicilian scientists could start cloning him into an entire team of great Sicilian football players! He gets my nod for “Co-Defensive MVP Award”.

Salvo Sicali, #46, played both OLB and MLB missing 2 games this season. Salvo had 31 tackles and broke up 6 passes. His teammates voted him as one of our Defensive Co-Captains at the start of the season.

Roberto Conti, #50, was our starting MLB for most of the season playing in 8 games. He had 27 tackles and recovered a fumble and had a tendency to make a play at critical times, A GOOD THING!

Massimiliano Bonomo, "Moro", #36, a late season addition to the Elephants who lives in Rome. Moro possesses a great football mind and has a ton of game awareness. He only played in 2 games, our 8th and 9th games, but still was in on 18 tackles including 2 QB Sacks for -32 yards. Having a player of his caliber on defense was a luxury, I just wish we had him all year long!

Alessandro Bambara, #51, a MLB, he was a rookie and played sparingly but did start vs. Bologna in game 9. He had 3 tackles on the season.


"Call me Pony"

Fabio "Foca" Russo diving in for the kill.

Matt Epperson, Mr. Do Everything!

Antonello Gulisano, “Call Me Pony”, #31, one of the senior members of the defense, he had 38 tackles and broke up 9 passes. Pony fought through several nagging shoulder and leg injuries and played with a real love of the game. He missed 1 game.

Fabio Russo, “Foca”, #97, a converted OLB, Foca played in all 10 games and made 29 tackles while also breaking up 3 passes. We really had to play him out of his natural position due to the long string of injuries at Falcon. Fabio played very well most of the season.

Matt Epperson, #7, the best WR in the league, Matt would play about 10 to 15 plays a game on defense at Falcon usually but also at DB and even at DE in our Armageddon scheme. He had 27 tackles. He led our team in Tackles for Loss (5 for -18 yards) and Interceptions (3 returned for 135 yards for 1 TD and 1 Two Point PAT). The “Pride of Amarillo” also had 3 QB Sacks for -25 yards, broke up 5 passes and recovered a key onside kickoff at the start of the Bolzano game. He missed 2 games with broken ribs. When you add up his receiving and amazing yards after catch, his kickoff return ability, toughness, leadership and ability to just flat out be a game momentum changer, you end up with the best all-around player in the IFL! In my opinion, he would have to be our “Team MVP” based on his contributions on offense, defense and special teams. Matt is just a GREAT, old school football player who lets his actions do all of his talking!

Rigel Roundtree, #33, a great guy who played in only 1 game in Matt Epperson’s absence. An American who teaches at a local school and has a lot of rugby experience, he started vs. Bologna in game #9, played very well and was in on 6 tackles. I felt bad for him in game #10 vs. Bolzano. He was ready to go but Matt was activated at the last possible moment and we can only suit up 3 imports, so Rigel was the odd man out.

Gustavo Bonnano, #39, is a very hard worker and an all-around good guy. He was making great strides at Falcon, playing most of the season opener in Milan and starting our second game at Bergamo. Unfortunately he broke his leg at the very end of this game and missed the last 8 games of the season. He made 3 tackles and broke up a pass.

Renato Gargiulio #48, has another of our team leaders. Did I mention that if it wasn’t for bad luck, our defense would have had no luck at all? Voted a defensive Co-Captain at the start of the year, he blew out his elbow on the opening drive of the season in Milan requiring season ending surgery that forced him to miss 9 games. Tough, smart and a great leader, his loss really hurt us. As an example, in his only drive of the season he had 2 tackles, broke up a pass and forced a fumble! 


Mario Ravida

Cristiano Marra


Massimo Tribulato

Christian DiMauro, #21, was our excellent, hard hitting Free Safety that led our team in tackles with 63 despite missing 3 ½ games due to a strained knee. He forced 1 fumble and recovered a fumble as well. We ask our FS to be very involved in our run defense if he reads run and Christian did this very well all year. Christian would the other winner of our “Co-Defensive MVP Award”.

Massimo Tribulato, #14, a rookie CB, Massimo endured a trial by fire! His 43 tackles ranked third on the team and he broke up a team high 12 passes. He had 2 interceptions with his first one sealing the victory at the end of our season opener in Milan. He missed the final game of the season with a knee injury. He usually drew the unenviable task of guarding the other team's best receiver.

Mario Ravida, #87, a speedy WR turned CB, Mario missed the first 3 games of the season with an ankle injury. He started several games at the end of the season due to injuries to other CB’s. He made the most of his chances by making in 17 tackles, breaking up 2 passes and recovering a fumble.

Cristiano Marra, #36, was a Free Safety who started 3 games contributing 17 tackles and breaking up 2 passes.  He was a willing worker who also spot played at Falcon. He missed the last 2 games of the season.

Massimiliano Garipoli, “But you can call me Smith”, #5, was another rookie starting at CB, “Smitty” suffered both an ankle injury and had stitches in his chin that forced him to miss 4 games. Another trial by fire style learner, he had 12 tackles, broke up 6 passes and forced a fumble.

Claudio Mangano, #28, is one of the best WR’s in the IFL who was forced to play CB because of all our injuries. He finished game #9 in Bologna and started game #10 at home against Bolzano. He made the most of his time on defense by joining in on 3 tackles, breaking up a pass, recovering a fumble and blocking an extra point.


Well, that’s it for the "Banquet by Blog" of our defensive players.

THANKS to ALL the Elephants for a memorable and fun season!

Hopefully we’ll get at least one more chance to get together and play again.

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